This is a wonderful time of year, full of joy and good cheer, BUT not everyone looks at the holiday season in the same spirit. For some, this is an invitation to larceny — or worse. How do you keep yourself and your family safe from harm yet still be able to enjoy the festivities? Consider these personal safety and holiday security tips.

PERSPECTIVE The first things to do are take a deep breath and relax. While crime rates do go up at this time of the year, it is no reason to get paranoid and turn every outing or activity into a military operation complete with ops, comms, and extraction plans. Take sensible precautions and involve the rest of the family!

HOME SECURITY With expensive gifts being given and received, a home invasion robbery is something you will want to protect against. As always, keep your outside lighting on and your doors locked, just as you do the rest of the year. I know it’s tempting to leave the door only latched in case guests arrive, but keep that deadbolt fastened as well. Keep your drapes closed so others can’t observe your activities. It’s common to want others to see your wonderfully decorated tree but remember that it might attract the wrong kinds of visitors.

If you’re in the habit of carrying a defensive handgun, this is a perfect use for those ugly Christmas sweaters — you’d be surprised how well those baggy, festooned garments conceal even a bulky handgun! f you don’t carry a defensive handgun, you might consider moving your home-defense firearm from the bedroom to a more accessible location closer to where you’ll be gathered. You still need to keep it out of the reach of children and unauthorized users, of course, so keep that in mind. This is also a good time to go over your intruder alert plans with your family; how you get to the safe room and what you do when you get there, for instance. Remember that a knock at the door or a ringing of the doorbell might not be Christmas carolers. Verify who’s there before you unlock that deadbolt.

Crowds are common this time of year, and it can be a chore to keep the family safe. First, have a plan in case you’re separated; agree to meet at a specific place or that you’ll all head for the same exit in case of trouble. If you’re indoors and an attack occurs, think first about getting you and your family together and out of the building if you can do so safely. Think about exits in the back of stores or restaurants. Virtually all establishments have them, and heading out the back is often the safest way to avoid danger. If you can’t get away safely, barricade yourself in a defensive position that makes it difficult for someone to reach you. Manage your distractions. While it’s important to enjoy your time out, it’s also important to spend some of your limited attention on things that might be a danger to you. Look around occasionally -- is anything out of place? Has anything changed? Look at the people. Are there any whose body language and/or facial expressions suggest they’re not there for the same reasons you are? Trust your gut -- if you feel something is out of place or that you might be at risk, leave. If it’s something you’ve decided is an actual emerging threat, call 9-1-1 as you move quickly away.

Have a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a SAFE 2021 for you and yours!

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